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Audio Picks

Helen Wilding Cook - Children's Collection Development Coordinator

(Juvenile Fiction, YA novels, and the odd exceptional Adult title--for a break from kids’ books)

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April 2017

"The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World" by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale

Doreen Green, AKA Squirrel Girl, is an optimistic, wholesome, talkative dynamo her first day of school – and the other kids think she’s a freak. After unsuccessfully approaching several cafeteria tables of friendly looking kids, she approaches a girl sitting alone, reading. The girl - Ana Sofia - tells her that she always turns her hearing aids off at lunch, so Squirrel Girl learns sign language and launches a relentless campaign to become BFF’s. Ana Sofia’s reservations are no match for Squirrel Girl’s resilient optimism and her deafness isn’t an issue, but adds an unusual, refreshing diverse character.

Squirrel Girl also befriends squirrels as she can understand their high-pitched squeaky conversations. The squirrel language – often rapid-fire and agitated - because, after all, it’s supposed to be squirrels talking – is unequivocally hilarious, especially in the audio version. The chittery squirrel sounds are both funny and realistically squirrely. In this first adventure from the authors of the Princess in Black series, Squirrel Girl rescues several babies (squirrels love babies), and foils an evil scheme, after texting with Black Widow, Iron Man, and other Marvel characters. I have not laughed this hard reading a book in years. I haven’t ever laughed this hard reading a juvenile fiction novel, except maybe when I was still actually a little girl. Young patrons will love this book. I certainly did.

JUVENILE FICTION - 7 CDS

ISBN 9781524734053 LBN 1223637

December 2016
"Ugly" by Robert Hoge

 

Robert Hoge – similar to the child in R. J. Palacio’s novel Wonder – was born with a face unpleasant to look at. He had a tumour where his nose should have been and short, twisted legs. Surgeons enhanced their careers engineering many surgeries to rebuild his face to something more typical, as well as amputating his legs and designing prosthetics. Along the way, Robert lived an energetic, hilarious life, chronicling his adventures with his large, boisterous family, but short of the final surgery, the one the surgeons had been working toward for a decade, Robert refused. Further surgery could harm his sight and as one of his brothers pointed out, a handsome face wouldn’t do him much good if he was blind! Besides which, Robert learned to lawn bowl even though one of his legs can’t bend, and he needs to see to be able to do that.

Although marketed as a juvenile biography, this book is quite interesting for adult readers as well. It’s a good choice for reluctant readers or esl student and is read by Robert himself, which enhances the stories warm and engaging voice.

JUVENILE BIOGRAPHY - 4 CDS

ISBN 9780735287594 LBN 1251829

September 2016

"The Passion of Dolssa" by Julie Berry

Set in Spain, this audiobook features beautiful language and accents, as well as a fast paced narrative with many nuanced characters. The plot is mostly about an aristocrat - Dolssa - who has visions of Jesus, and a gift for healing. While fleeing church officials bent on silencing her, and half dead from starvation, Dolssa meets a peasant who rescues her. But while recovering, Dolssa cannot keep from healing the sick she sees around her, and unfortunately, stories of her miracles circulate.

A great novel to offer to patrons who want to read something outside of their comfort zone of historical fiction, fantasy or mystery novels, this book also features an intriguing author commentary at the conclusion of the narrative.  In this narrative, Julie Berry explains the historical context of the book - a period of religious persecution seldom discussed and how Dolssa is based on several real historical figures, one of which Berry researched in a compelling primary source.

Berry was intrigued by Dolssa’s visions and questioned if they were real. But when Berry had a vision herself, the experience led her to write this book.

YOUNG HISTORICAL FICTION - 8 CDS

ISBN 9780147525796 LBN 1145056

August 2016

"Salt to the Sea" by Ruta Sepetys

This is another Young Adult historical novel that depicts historical events that aren’t often discussed – particularly the circumstances leading to the worst maritime disaster in history. Toward the end of World War II the Wilhelm Gustloff was torpedoed and sunk, killing most of the 10,000 passengers aboard. In the context of this horrific story, the author portrays alternating points of view, a pregnant Polish girl, a zealous Nazi soldier, a battle weary nurse, a defecting German intelligence officer, a blind woman, a shoemaker, an orphan and more. Each character offers different stories that gradually intertwine; each is struggling to survive, only for their stories to end, on a doomed ship. It is surprisingly suspenseful and truly captivating.

YOUNG HISTORICAL FICTION - 6 CDS

ISBN 9780147525437 LBN 1145057

May 2016

"The Way I Used to Be" by Amber Smith

Our protagonist, 12 year-old Eden, is a loving, open-hearted person, when the book opens. She’s a straight A’s, geeky, optimistic, innocent girl surrounded by people she loves and people who love her - parents, brother, best friend. Then her brother’s friend - a boy Eden adores - rapes her, and it is a traumatizing experience. But when Eden tries to tell her loved ones, she finds herself unable to and ends up feeling betrayed and resentful. If only they would ask the right questions. If only they could see. Eden’s straight A’s drop, she quits her clubs and band.  The lovely 12 year-old is still inside her, but the girl Eden shows to the world gradually becomes someone else.

The author achieves an interesting feat with this story, as the reader still sympathizes with Eden, now Edie, even though she becomes a mean, lying, deceitful, and promiscuous young woman. Years later, a stranger asks the right questions and helps the girl inside, the girl she used to be, find the courage to tell.

A woman in Canada was raped, in the time it took to compose this review; since this occurs every 17 minutes. (Statistics Canada, The Daily (Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, November 18, 1993)) Eden’s story shows one girl’s experience and may help raped girls cope better with theirs.

YOUNG ADULT FICTION - 8 CDS

ISBN 9781442395985 LBN 1140423

"Exit, Pursued by a Bear" by E.K. Johnston

Hermione is a 17-year-old gregarious girl. She’s captain of a champion, elite, cheerleading squad, top of her class, and popular. She’s strong, lovely, loving and well loved by her parents, her best friend, Polly and her boyfriend, Leo. Then at cheer camp she wakes up in a hospital bed. Polly looks devastated and explains that Hermione was found, unconscious outside the dance. She had been drugged and raped but doesn’t remember any of it.  As she copes with her unexpected pregnancy and participates in the investigation, Hermione starts seeing a psychiatrist who tries to help her to retrieve memories of her rape, throughout which her courage and character are unflagging.

I defy you not to cheer for this determined survivor. Hermione’s story shows one girl’s experience and may help raped girls cope better with theirs.

YOUNG ADULT FICTION - 6 CDS

ISBN 9780399566028 LBN 1145043

April 2016

"The Poe Estate" by Polly Shulman

When Sukie and her parents move in with her great aunt, into their family’s ancestral home, her new home feels like the setting of the historical mysteries she enjoys reading. Turns out she’s right! In the course of the narrative she meets employees of the New York Circulating Material Repository, who collect mysterious antiques and are interested in a broom and other objects her parents were selling in their antiques booth. In the course of showing them the broom and antiques, these employees recognize Sukie’s house as an actual fictional setting, and start negotiating to preserve it. Also the broom flies, it’s a witch’s broom! (Sukie learns this by accident and gets pretty good at flying on it) During all of these confusing developments, Sukie and her new classmate Cole start seeing ghosts, who give them clues to a treasure. The story offers many interesting debates comparing fiction to reality, teasing authors whose characters are always walking too close to the cliffs’ edges, etc. What a great idea – to live in a book’s setting. What setting would you like to live in?

This juvenile paranormal novel – companion to The Grimm Legacy - is a lot of fun for avid readers! It would make an excellent part of a book club and would be a great one for families to share.

JUVENILE PARANORMAL FICTION - 6 CDS

ISBN 9781101926178 LBN 1098112

March 2015

"Dumplin" by Julie Murphy

This YA novel portrays an often overlooked character – the self-proclaimed fat girl who is not trying to be thinner. Willowdean – nicknamed Dumplin’ by her oblivious former beauty queen mom – is happy in her own skin, until a gorgeous, popular guy takes an interest in her. For some reason she’s comfortable being fat: she’s not comfortable being a fat girlfriend. The idea that people will think, “How did HE end up with HER? What’s so special about the fat girl?” drives her nuts. She can’t face it. Also, she was comfortable with her body, but she’s not comfortable with him touching it. These realizations unsettle her selfhood until she’s driven to do something she finds ridiculous. She enters a beauty pageant. The pageant her mother won and now convenes. The author portrays several diverse characters joining Willowdean, as a kind of protest group. Interesting revelations ensue – for example drag queens make fantastic pageant coaches! This is a thoughtful, funny, romantic story. Listen to it, and cheer for Willodean. The Texas accents make the audio particularly engaging.

YA DIVERSE FICTION - 8 CDS

ISBN 9781504645218 LBN 1129461

December 2015

"The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate" by Jacqueline Kelly

This sequel is everything a fan of the Newbery Honor Book The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, could hope for. There are similar hilarious misadventures with Calpurnia’s younger brother, Travis, who has a penchant for falling in love with wildly inappropriate pets, including hiding the grizzly deaths of several chickens, which was particularly funny. There is, however, a more serious element to this novel set in the early 1900s that will have readers cheering. Calpurnia, though stalwart in her loyalty to her parents, is clever and wants to go to college. Her quiet courage and insistence to be respected helps her realize her dream. This would be an excellent story for families to listen to together and could start many interesting discussions.  The author grew up in Canada.

JUVENILE HISTORICAL FICTION - 7 CDS, 8 HOURS

ISBN 9781427261373 LBN 1061870

November 2015

"Small Bones" by Vicki Grant

Like Kelley Armstrong’s The Unquiet Past, reviewed in this month’s Staff Picks, this book is one of seven in the Orca Book Publishing’s latest YA series, Secrets. These Canadian books can be read in any order, and each focuses on a character from an orphanage, which burns down.   Dot, the heroine of this story, is an orphan who goes in search of her past, but unfortunately dangerous people are simultaneously working out who she is as well. Like Vicki Grant’s previous work, such as Betsy Wickwire's Dirty Secret, this book is at times humorous and captures the voice of a teenager beautifully. A beautiful adoption story, Small Bones has one of the happiest endings I’ve read in ages - and yes, I cried!

YA FICTION - 4 CDS

ISBN 9781459810983 LBN 1127899

September 2015

"Challenger Deep" by Neal Shusterman

20 years ago, Neal Shusterman lost his closet friend to suicide. His friend struggled with schizophrenia.  Shusterman’s son recently descended into a struggle with mental illness as well, but he has escaped, for now. This novel portrays – with Shusterman’s son’s help – what his mental illness was like. How real people were part of his delusions, what the hospital and medications, fear, paranoia, mania and depression felt like. The novel opens in Medias Res – and it’s very effective. Immediately the reader doesn’t know what’s real and what’s not, who the narrator is, or even when is now. Gradually, the first person perspective illuminates the healing process, the recession of the delusions and ascendancy of reality. I found the audio performance extremely haunting.

YA DIVERSE FICTION - 10 CDs

ISBN 9781481534727 LBN 1092293


 

August 2015

"Ghost Hawk" by Susan Cooper

The structure of this historical novel is brilliant. It begins with a first person narrative by a young First Nations boy named Little Hawk. He passes into manhood, experiencing many cataclysmic changes from small pox, first contact with white settlers, until one day he’s shot and killed. WHAM! It is an incredibly jarring experience, as a reader, made much more dramatic in audio. Then, Little Hawk becomes a ghost, and narrates the rest of the story – over several generations - with marvellous immediacy still in first person; somewhat omniscient but now he can’t influence events. I thought that was a fantastic narrative trick. Initially, the audio of Ghost Hawk was difficult for me. Jim Dale is the narrator (the Harry Potter series and the Eragon series.) His voice seemed initially discordant with the setting of Ghost Hawk, however, the story itself kept me listening until Harry and Eragon faded.

JUVENILE HISTORICAL FICTION- 7 CDS, 8 HOURS

ISBN 9781442364806 LBN 955113


 

July 2015

"Prudence" by Gail Carriger

Readers who enjoyed The Parasol Protectorate series will relish this cleverly concocted adventure. Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama is the daughter of that series’ protagonist, Alexia Maccon. Prudence’s friends are also offspring of that series’ characters. They are all somewhat spoiled, brilliantly accomplished, impatient with decorum and protocol and driving their parents to distraction. And so a magnificent dirigible is commissioned for Prudence and she – and her troublesome peers – are sent on a modest mission to begin a tea plantation in India. However, Rue’s curiosity and keen intelligence, soon embroils the group in a major international incident. Her solution involves tedious, wearisome, negotiations in which she makes promises and alliances she may not be able to keep. An engaging sequel is sure to ensue. Please note… The author introduces one of her finest characters yet, a werlioness whose loyalties and motivations are as mysterious as one might expect from a cat.

ADULT FICTION - 11 CDs

ISBN 9781478930143 LBN 1072199


 

June 2015

"The Winner's Crime" by Marie Rutkoski

This is the second book in one of my current favourite YA fantasy series. Kestrel’s loyalties and ethics were once clearly focused on her empire as she grew up in a beautiful colony. But then she fell in love with, Arin, her slave. He taught her to respect the colony’s people and to question her empire centred assumptions. When he led a rebellion she negotiated a peace treaty and became engaged to the emperor’s son. She hides her sacrifice from Arin, pretending indifference to him. She begins her new life in the capital but she senses that the Emperor will betray the peace treaty. She can’t discern how. She becomes a spy for Arin’s ambassador. Once the model citizen, who is she now? What should she do? Marrying the next emperor definitely is not the answer. Recommend this series to teen female patrons looking for an interesting character that’s grappling with ideas and challenges much more complex than her romantic inclinations.

YA FANTASY- 8 CDS, 10 HOURS

ISBN 9780804167864 LBN 1055419


 

May 2015

"Magic Marks the Spot" by Caroline Carlson

Hilary Westfield wants to be a pirate. Since her father is an admiral in the navy, this is a particularly problematic life plan. As one might expect, she’s shipped off to a Finishing School.  En route she very nearly escapes, but her seemingly bored governess is nevertheless resourceful enough to prevent it. Once at finishing school, Hilary does escape and joins a pirate crew, but not before her governess finds her, and joins the crew as well. AHA!! Our characters are not what they seem. A governess pirate? A criminal mastermind, Admiral? Even the finishing school headmistress will surprise readers. The narrative has the feel of Mary Poppins, beautifully narrated with gentile mostly outraged upper class voices and accents contrasting with harsh, hilarious, pirate banter.  Families will love this book and look forward to the series.

JUVENILE FANTASY- Unabridged CD, 7 CDs, 8.1 Hours

ISBN 9781483041612 LBN 1097051


 

April 2015

"The Hero's Guide to Being an Outlaw" by Christopher Healy

This juvenile fantasy is the third and final in the League of Princes series. In it, a group of fairy tale characters live in adjacent kingdoms and form an alliance to resist a common foe. What makes it comical is that some of the characters are fairly clever and some (okay most) are extraordinarily daft. The clever ones explain daring plans and the daft ones don’t understand, but think they do, with ever more convoluted results. They misunderstand things like idioms and homonyms while the clever characters try to patiently clarify. Usually these conversations take place during extremely dangerous situations which makes it even funnier. The audio performances are hysterical. For example the way the daft characters “up-speak” – by itself – is hilarious, never mind their ludicrous misunderstandings. Kids will love it. Even the most cynical parents will laugh out loud with them.

JUVENILE FANTASY- Unabridged CD, 9 CDs, 10.7 hours

ISBN 9781483003740 LBN 1081159


 

March 2015

"Goblin Secrets" by William Alexander

This National Book Award Winner is read by the author. He does a fantastic job. From page one, this book, and this world are entirely unpredictable. The reader has no idea where the story is going. Neither does, our hero, Rownie. He takes one misstep, stealing from his adoptive, nasty grandmother, Graba – who is a witch with huge, mechanical chicken legs. He steals from her, pay to watch a Goblin play. For reasons he doesn’t understand, Graba evicts Rownie for this small transgression. Suddenly he’s on the run, taken in by the Goblins and whisked out of town on a fabulous, hilarious adventure.  Recommend this audio book to families to listen to together. Many of the characters are children and all of them play critical roles in saving the day. Recommend this audio book to excellent readers who are looking for something entirely different.

FAMILY LISTENING - Unabridged, 4 CDS.

ISBN 9781442363038 LBN 906518


 

February 2015

"Blue Lily, Lily Blue" by Maggie Stiefvater

Like a good Maggie Stiefvater fan friend, I saved this book to listen to over the holidays. And then I didn’t have time to finish it - because the holidays were busy - and then I resented reality until I could complete this magnificent book. I want to carve a small literary gem, to pay suitable homage to Ms. Stiefvater’s talent for character, witty dialogue, plot, innovation, and gorgeous writing. Read aloud her prose sound like music. But alas, time is pressing, and no room to carve gems. Let me say, her characters major and minor – are hilarious, and people you wish you knew. The seven foot farmer Blue befriends is among my favourite so far with his huge booming voice and gentle protectiveness of five foot Blue. Cheer for these characters as they draw ever nearer to awakening a king asleep for hundreds of years – in New England.

YA PARANORMAL- Unabridged, 9 CDS.

ISBN 9780545649070 LBN 1008702


 

January 2015

"The Screaming Staircase" by Jonathan Stroud

Occasionally I keep an Advance Reading Copy in my “to read” pile season after season - too intrigued to let it go. Then I see it in audio at my library! Problem solved. In The Screaming Staircase: Lockwood & Co. – Book 1, Jonathan Stroud has created a Victorian London with “the problem.” Many ghosts plague the city, such that squads of agents fight them nightly. Only children can see the ghosts. All the Psychic Detection Agencies have child combatants, and adult supervisors. All except one run by Anthony Lockwood. Our protagonist, Lucy, joins Lockwood & Co. only to realize that the only other member is George, a rather crusty researcher. Immediately the three become embroiled in a complicated mystery that leads them to a desolate haunted mansion, where they fight for their lives with delightful gizmos. Of course, everyone survives, and their tiny agency gains credibility and camaraderie. I’m signing up for book two, The Whispering Skull. I’d urge you to consider this series in audio. The accents are lovely and the spooky mystery would be fun for families to share.

JUVENILE PARANORMAL- Unabridged, 8 CDS.

ISBN 9780804123143 LBN 938431


 

December 2014

"Sinner" by Maggie Stiefvater

Called a companion to the Shiver Trilogy, this book explores what happens next for the characters, Cole and Isabel. When the book opens, Cole has studied the wolf change to such an extent that he can inject himself and become a wolf for short periods of time. Previously, all of the characters afflicted with the change could not resist or induce the change. It was seasonal. The author uses Cole’s experimentation to talk about substance abuse and addiction. She also shares the world of the music industry with readers as Cole  “cuts an album” in the course of the narrative (Maggie Stiefvater’s music graces all of her audio books.) Isabel and Cole have a steamy, fiery romance, learning and teaching one another to trust. Maggie Stiefvater fans, music, social media and reality TV fans, will love this book.

YA PARANORMAL- Unabridged, 8 CDS.

ISBN 9780545690126 LBN 978168


 

November 2014

"Afterworlds" by Scott Westerfeld

This is an excellently crafted, self-reflexive novel.  It is a novel within a novel. The first novel describes a young writer, Darcy Patel and her first year as an author. The novel within this novel is the book she’s writing. It’s a paranormal YA novel where the protagonist, Lizzie, has a near death experience that leaves her with powers and access to another dimension. As Lizzie - confused and alone - struggles with self-doubt; so does Darcy, as she composes her story. That aspect of Afterworlds is very well done. The paranormal elements in Lizzie’s world are new and interesting but Darcy’s story resonates more. A novel about an author writing a book could become self-indulgent. However, this compelling, suspenseful romance also offers clever, practical advice and encouragement about publishing and the writing process.

YA PARANORMAL- Unabridged, 12 CDS, 14 Hours.

ISBN 9781442372467 LBN 1007964


 

October 2014

"Iron Trial" by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare

This first book in the Magisterium series by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black is as exceptional as fervent fans might have hoped for. Our protagonist, Callum Hunt, has magical power. His father has always taught him that magic is bad. He’s always said that all magicians, magic society, the magic school called the Magisterium – anything to do with magic is untrustworthy, even evil. Callum tries to fail entry tests into the school, but is selected anyway. At the school he intentionally fails, hoping to get expelled. Despite his best efforts he learns about magic. He learns something no one else knows. His father isn’t afraid of all magic; he fears Callum’s magic. The magicians are the good guys. Callum belongs with their enemies.

JUVENILE FANTASY- Unabridged, 7 CDS, 9.5 Hours.

ISBN 9780804122603 LBN 991359


 

September 2014

"We Were Liars" by E. Lockhart

I listened to this book weeks after reserving it at the library. We’re introduced to Cadence Sinclair Eastman, a heiress to her grandfather’s fortune and island. Cadence, her two cousins and step-cousin whom she has dubbed “the Liars”, have been spending summers together on this island since they were children. The reader enters into Cadence’s world approaching the summer she’s seventeen. The summer she was fifteen, she suffered a horrific head injury and subsequent memory loss. She’s returning to the island – and seeing the Liars for the first time – to try to remember what happened. This central mystery is exquisitely maintained. An amnesiac makes a fantastic unreliable narrator.

YA FICTION- Unabridged, 4  CDS, 6.5 Hours.

ISBN 9780804168397 LBN 965198


 

"The Story of a Happy Marriage" by Ann Patchett

This collection of short non-fiction has countless features to recommend it. Let’s talk about two. First, it is read by the author. Listening to it feels like going to a reading - of the entire book. It’s uniquely intimate. You hear Miss Patchett’s warm, caring, intelligent literary voice, in her actual voice.  Second, this book would commence the best book club ever. Listen to this book, then read all the titles mentioned. Miss Patchett talks about the process of writing her first - The Patron Saint of Liars. She also talks about a controversy related to Truth & Beauty: a Friendship, a book about her friend, Lucy Grealy. While she describes that strange experience, we hear about Miss Grealy and her book, Autobiography of a Face. Finally, Miss Patchett enthuses about short stories, some favourite authors, and editing the 2006 anthology The Best American Short Stories. I’ve reserved several of these books already.

BIOGRAPHY- Unabridged, 10 CDS.

ISBN 9780062282866 LBN 946205


 

August 2014

"Cress" by Marissa Meyer

This is book three in the Lunar Chronicles series. Like Cinder and Scarlet, this novel draws on elements from a fairy tale. Cress is a brilliant hacker, programmer, and rocket scientist who has been imprisoned on a satellite for seven years, working for the evil Queen Lavana (ruler of the moon). Recently, Cress was tasked with finding Cinder’s ship. In researching Cinder and Scarlet, Cress decides to hide them, instead, reprograming satellites all around the globe. Cress’s rescue is attempted but ambushed and Scarlet is taken prisoner. Nevertheless, Cress’s expertise helps Cinder successfully kidnap Lavana’s prospective groom and rocket off toward the moon, to start a revolution… and rescue Scarlet. This series offers three wonderful romances, many subplots, witty dialogue, and great characters. Beyond the fun, the narrative incorporates interesting ideas about racism, leadership, and power.

YA FANTASY-Unabridged, 13 CDS.

ISBN 9781427236272 LBN 976740


 

"Hexed" by Michelle Krys

YES! An audio book by a Canadian author! The Canadian-ness of this book was its main draw for me initially but our protagonist, Indigo, quickly won my heart. She starts out a popular, gorgeous, cheerleader dating a football star quarterback. However, her shallow existence becomes abundantly clear to her when a secret, ancient war suddenly erupts in her life, killing her mother. Indigo finds herself scrambling to master powers she didn’t know she had in order to stay alive and steal back a book her mother died trying to protect. Abandoned by her superficial friends, Indigo befriends her nerdy neighbour (hooray for nerds!) and wins one small battle. A cliff-hanger ending alludes to the larger battles that remain.

YA PARANORMAL-Unabridged, 7 CDS.

ISBN 9780804167147 LBN 989823


 

July 2014

"Rebel Belle" by Rachel Hawkins

Harper Price is in her debutante year, training to walk in high heels, curtsey, and behave with perfect propriety. She chairs many committees, is a straight A student, and shoe-in for Home-coming Queen – until she interrupts a sword fight between her school janitor, and chemistry teacher. The janitor – apparently mortally wounded - kisses her and minutes later Harper lethally stabs her teacher’s throat with her stiletto. (Gosh!) Harper applies her outstanding organizational and research skills to clarifying her sudden staggering strength, stamina, reflexes and talent for murder. The janitor’s kiss conveyed to her the obligation and abilities of a paladin. She must guard the one guy in the world she cannot tolerate. They have a confrontational history – nasty spelling-bee incidents, etc. - and he has mysterious talents of his own. The banter and conflict between these two main characters, Harper’s best friend, and Harper’s boyfriend are clever and fun. A cliff-hanger ending neatly binds their destiny together.

YA PARANORMAL- Unabridged MP3 CD, 1 CD, 9.5 Hours.

ISBN 9781629234540 LBN 1020477


 

June 2014

"A Snicker of Magic" by Natalie Lloyd

It was a fortunate choice to listen to this juvenile debut novel. The narrative is so confidently playful with words, it sounds like music. The warm folksy voice reflects another feature fundamental to the story - poetry. The characters and the plot are complex and unpredictable, with myths of magic in the past poised to pounce in the present. It’s a fun, nuanced book, in content and vocal performance.

If you pick up just one debut audio book this year, make it this one. The following words were written on the arm of our protagonist, Felicity. See if they don’t make you want to listen to this book, and learn more about her: ‘Splendiferous, splendidly, wonder, enchanting, curious, stalwart, plum pretty, plum awesome = Felicity…’

JUVENILE PARANORMAL- Unabridged, 7 CDS.

ISBN 9780545706797/ LBN 988678


 

May 2014

"The Dream Thieves" by Maggie Stiefvater

The excellence of the writing in this second book in The Raven Cycle sparkles. I'll focus on that despite a fantastic, complex plot, clever world building, and engaging mysteries.

Ms. Stiefvater’s narrative voice has a warm, quirky, almost conversational personality. It playfully teases the reader, drawing vivid comparisons, then soon after, contrasting with inept, self-deprecating metaphors. If you enjoy her humour, it’s a wonderful narrative.

YA readers fatigued with pacey, plot driven novels will relish Stiefvater’s use of language, the meticulous depth, and breadth of her unusual characters and especially their eloquent, hilarious verbal sparring. Adult patrons who enjoy YA novels will love this book.

I started reading the print version, and then finished the story in audio. Both are exceptional; but, the audio features amazing rock music composed and in part performed, by Stiefvater.

YOUNG ADULT FICTION-Unabridged, 10 CDs, 11 Hours.

ISBN 9780545600392/ LBN 946968


 

April 2014

"Fortunately, the Milk" by Neil Gaiman

This book is really, really fun. It is perfect for siblings of different ages to listen to with their parents.In it, a father goes to the store for milk one morning, so that his kids can have breakfast and get to school. When he returns – somewhat later than expected – he tells a fabulous story about time travel, saving the world, eluding aliens, ponies, death by volcano sacrifice, and much more, all without losing or spilling the milk.

The narrative carries the comforting flavour of a loving family.

JUVENILE HUMOROUS FICTION-Unabridged, 1 CD.

ISBN 9780062332080 / LBN 977081


 

March 2014

"Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls" by David Sedaris

Listening to this collection of essays (mostly about travelling) made me laugh out loud at every sitting. I would recommend the audio version, for two reasons.

First, Mr. Sedaris, himself, is the reader and a very good one. The second reason refers to a part he did about going to Asia, Japan I think. Before departing he listens to Pimsleur CDs. He learns their standard answers for standard questions, usually not HIS answers. What’s really funny is that, apparently Pimsleur listened to his audio book. They sent him a personalized Pimsleur lesson. “Do you have any children?” Listen to the audio of this book and you will be able to answer – in Japanese - “No, but I have a lovely niece that I hardly ever see.”

ADULT FICTION-Unabridged, 6 CDS, 7 HOURS.

ISBN 9781619696990 / LBN 883083


 

February 2014

"The Signature of All Things" by Elizabeth Gilbert

You may have read Anna Gillespie’s recent E-News article that mentions books she was looking forward to reading. This book is one of them. I had no other knowledge of it beyond that, but what a serendipitous choice it turned out to be.

I met a Victorian protagonist, Alma Whittaker. Her father immigrated to America from Britain and made a fortune importing and exporting exotic plants and in innovating pharmaceuticals from these plants.  Alma shares these pursuits but also becomes a botanist, publishing academic books and corresponding with prominent botanists and explorers. While listening to this book, I was reading The Flower of Empire. That non-fiction title explores Victorian botany, focusing on explorers and naturalists who were discovering and gathering exotic new plants. These books compliment each other beautifully. I highly recommend both.

ADULT FICTION-Unabridged, 18 CDS, 20.5 HOURS.

LBN- 948350


 

"Code" by Kathy Reichs

This is book three in one of my favourite, current YA paranormal series, Virals. This book is more reminiscent of The Red Blazer Girls or Blue Balliett than previous books. The action is more focused on solving mystery puzzles in an increasingly high-stakes contest where failure will be fatal. For that reason the book would work as a standalone, and the audio would work well for family listening. Equally, the series’ suspense is building. Our protagonists – much like spiderman – have had their DNA altered and have secret abilities. Other people are getting suspicious, and our protagonists’ secrets are in jeopardy. AND, this novel introduces romance to the characters. I’m looking forward to finding out what happens next.

YA PARANORMAL FICTION-Unabridged, 9 CDS, 10.5 HOURS.

LBN- 875811

January 2014

"The Mystery of Meerkat Hill" by Alexander McCall Smith

This is the second Precious Ramotswe Mystery for Young Readers. Precious lives in a small village in Botswana. The narrative is a series of vignettes that explore small mysteries; Precious’ curious, generous nature; the colourful, interesting landscape of Botswana; and to an extent, its culture.

The narrative also playfully eludes to Ms. Ramotswe’s adult occupation (and the adult series) The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. These references may lead parents – or Children’s Librarians - to read that series!

JUVENILE MYSTERY-Unabridged, 1 CD, 1 HOUR.

LBN- 953237

December 2013

"Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things" by Cynthia Voigt

Max’s parents -principal actors and proprietors of a London theatre company -mysteriously vanish – leaving behind a cryptic note. Max and his grandmother – a librarian – calmly set about tracing clues in this first mystery.

As time passes, Max realizes he needs to earn a living until his parents are found. As he applies for different jobs, he becomes acquainted with a variety of people and their problems. Their problems are really mysteries that he can’t resist untangling, and voila! His occupation is born.

This book has the innocent fun flavour of a classic, similar to the recent John Stephens series, The Books of Beginning or Michael D. Biel’s 'Summer at Forsaken Lake.' Families will enjoy listening to it together.

JUVENILE MYSTERY -Unabridged, 8 CDS, 11 Hours.

LBN- 938430

"Fangirl" by Rainbow Rowell

Rainbow Rowell fans will love this next hilarious novel.

The main character, Cath, is an identical twin. She’s always been in her more confident, more extroverted twin’s shadow. They have always been a unit. So when Cath’s twin announces she doesn’t want to be roommates at college, Cath’s world pitches off plum.

I am a twin – not identical, but still. Rowell captures exactly the feelings, the loses, the beginnings, the shifts of selfhood, the realignments of this pivotal time in twindom sisterhood. And… this is only one small part of Cath and what she experiences. Other key elements include fan fiction, first love, and writing non-fan fiction, never mind all of the other fully realized passionate characters.

YOUNG ADULT ROMANCE-Unabridged, 10 CDS

LBN- 938428

November 2013

"Al Capone Does My Homework" by Gennifer Choldenko

The third book in this series, like earlier books, conveys many aspects of the unusual lives of Alcatraz employees and their families, who lived on Alcatraz in the 1930s. Moose and Natalie and the other kids convincingly solve another intriguing mystery. Unlike earlier books, several characters undergo significant changes. The warden’s mischievous daughter finally has to face consequences for one of her foolish decisions. Moose and his best friend Annie, become more than friends, in a few touching and realistic scenes. Most significantly, Natalie, Moose’s autistic sister, takes a leap forward. Moose risks letting her try something she’s never been able to do before – and Natalie succeeds! The audio version features the author talking about some really intriguing historical figures she studied.

JUVENILE HISTORICAL FICTION-Unabridged, 5 CDS

LBN- 931916

October 2013

"Navigating Early" by Clare Vanderpool

Much as Vanderpool’s Newbery Medal Winner Moon Over Manifest did, this book has the immediacy of a contemporary novel despite its historical setting.

Just after World War II, after the sudden death of his mother, a Kansas farm boy finds himself at a boarding school in Maine. He’s never been in a boat, but is obliged to compete on the rowing team. His hilarious first outing rapidly improves as an enigmatic boy – Early – befriends him. Early is an expert rowing coach, an expert in many things, actually, except social interaction. He tends to blurt things out, and list synonyms, and call it conversation. As the boys form an uneasy friendship, the grief they share helps them to move forward, culminating in a fantastic, ill-conceived adventure, camping, boating, and tracking a gigantic bear in the woods.

JUVENILE HISTORICAL FICTION- Unabridged, 6 CDS

LBN- 894206

September 2013

The End of Your Life Book Club

by Will Schwalbe

In this book one learns about two aspects of Mary Anne Schwalbe’s life (the author’s late mother); her career, and her reading.

She personified the noblesse oblige ideal, fund raising and travelling tirelessly, often to build libraries. When she became ill with cancer, with quiet courage, she refused to stop working. (Find out more about her work;  http://theendofyourlifebookclub.com/support/.)

Will, the author, and Mary Anne talked about books during her chemo treatments. They cover dozens of books – it’s a readers’ advisory buffet! Google to find comprehensive lists... Recommend this title as a crossover for readers interested in virtually any genre. And if a patron says, “I’ve been meaning to read that book but haven’t had time…” please recommend the audio. Tell them to listen while exercising, or doing chores. Mary Anne Schwalbe’s bravery helped me to work harder!

ADULT NONFICTION - Unabridged, 8 CDs

LBN- 840126

"The Reluctant Assassin"

by Eoin Colfer

I try to listen to as many debut authors as possible. However, more and more, audio versions are only available for established authors; or, that’s my excuse, anyway, to treat myself to Eoin Colfer’s new audio book. It’s marvelous!

The plot sprints forward at a relentless pace, brilliantly maintained by the narrator. Our protagonist, Chevron Savano, is a nineteen-year-old FBI Agent. Okay she’s not a REAL agent – it’s complicated – but she’s out to prove she’s as good as any authentic agent. She’s hyper-vigilant about training (combat, martial arts, fitness, weapons, as well as procedure, policy, technology) in everything her security clearance will allow. Good thing! She’s going to need everything she’s learned. An FBI agent from the past, accidently releases a Victorian super assassin into the present – more or less on Chevron’s toe.

YOUNG ADULT SCIENCE FICTION - Unabridged, 8 CDS

LBN- 928831

 

August 2013

Scarlet

by Marissa Meyer

This is the second book in The Lunar Chronicles and as Cinder played with themes and elements from Cinderella, Scarlet plays with basis of Little Red Riding Hood.

Listening to these books, it really feels like Ms. Meyer had tremendous fun writing them and the reader is drawn along in the adventure. There are truly unique ideas about magic, intertwined with space ships, high speed chases, thwarted romances, and lots of antics that are laugh out loud funny.

This book is a riot. It is a funny, fast-paced, romantic adventure in a world luxurious with whimsical detail. I loved Cinder; I love this book and can’t wait for book three in the trilogy. If a patron wants something different, recommend this series.

Unabridged 9 CDS.

LBN - 889278

July 2013

The Lucy Variations

by Sara Zarr

At sixteen Lucy used to play piano professionally – she was exceptionally talented, especially for her age.  As the book opens Lucy hasn’t played in months. Integral to the plot then - obviously - is music and the mystery of why she stopped playing.

The audio edition plays snippets of all the piano pieces Lucy's story touches. The music adds immeasurably to the readers’ understanding of the story and, it encourages readers’ to listen to music.

Sara Zarr’s narration is superb and adds so much to the audio experience when you hear the author’s voice narrating their own story.

Every character in this story has depth, dimension and emotional resonance – especially Lucy. I miss her. I felt very sad to hear the last words of her story, it left me wanting to hear more.

Unabridged 8 CD, 10 Hours.

LBN - 945649

June 2013

Quiet

by Susan Cain

There are books that get recommended to you over and over again, until it feels like the universe really wants you to read it. This is one of those books.

Quiet talks extensively about introverted children, the author offers in-depth research and advice on both teaching and parenting introverted kids. For all the readers not interested in this book for their own sake; this aspect of the book makes it invaluable. Based on that alone EVERY parent and teacher should read this book, and yes, librarians too would benefit.

This is a book I never would have read in print. Suggest it to patrons who listen to audio books even if they don't often read non-fiction, it won’t disappoint.

Unabridged Library Edition, 9 CDS.

LBN - 863084

May 2013

Eleanor & Park

by Rainbow Rowell

This contemporary novel is really funny, touching, scary, and steamy, all at once, with themes of bullying and emotional abuse.

Eleanor and Park - our intelligent protagonists - somehow find themselves subordinate to a pack of good looking, loud, obnoxious, not necessarily bright people in their high school social structure – oh that sounds familiar.

If you have patrons who are sick of miserable post apocalyptic worlds, werewolves, swords, vampires, angels, etc. and just want to read about regular teenagers, here’s a book for them.

Any reader with a heart will love Eleanor & Park. The audio narration back and forth between the voices of Eleanor and Park works very well.

Unabridged, 7 CD

LBN - 923706 / ISBN - 9780385368285
April 2013

Dualed

by Elsie Chapman

In a dystopian future with scant resources, a city has walled itself in and intruders out. To discourage invasion attempts, the government has created a brutal, highly effective system for training soldiers.

Very simply, to reach adulthood, every citizen must murder his or her identical twin or Alternate. Raised separately, at an arbitrary time, Alternate pairs are given their Alt’s name and address, and 30 days to kill him or her.

The action-packed plot explores various aspects of being human that are valuable, besides proficiency at murder.

A perfect debut novel to recommend to fans of The Hunger Games, it also offers rich discussion for a book club. The audio performance enhances the tension perfectly.

Unabridged, 8 CD

LBN - 895774 / ISBN - 9780385361088

Liar & Spy

by Rebecca Stead

This Newbery Medal-winning author’s title makes readers wonder who is the Liar and who is the Spy? The answer (and the lie) is quite a surprise.

The two main characters are lonely seventh graders: Safer is home schooled, which seems like heaven to Georges, who suffers bullying every day.  Safer teaches Georges about spying, particularly on a suspicious neighbour. As the mystery around the neighbour builds, mysteries around each boy develop as well.

Families who listen to this story together would enjoy the repartee between Safer and his siblings. The story might also provide a forum for sharing with parents about bullying.

Unabridged, 4 CD

LBN - 816196 / ISBN - 9780449014080
March 2013

The Tragedy Paper

by Elizabeth Laban

At a prestigious school, each year the senior class must write a Tragedy Paper. Duncan enters his room in the fall of his senior year, thinking about this paper and the actual, real life tragedy that occurred the previous year.

In his room he finds CDs. On them, the room’s previous occupant, a major player in the tragedy, tells Duncan what happened. As the year progresses, Duncan is increasingly obsessed with listening to the CDs and fearful of tragedy.

Finally, threatened with expulsion, he confides the whole story to his English teacher, who accepts it as a verbal presentation of his Tragedy Paper, and gives him a perfect grade.

This is the author’s first young adult novel, uniquely suited to an audio presentation.

Unabridged, 10 CD

LBN - 894581 / ISBN - 9780804121996

A Grown-Up Kind Of Pretty

by Joshilyn Jackson

This is a grown-up book, not YA or juvenile fiction, like most of my reviews. A librarian friend recommended it and I’m so glad she did. If you’re looking for a refreshing change from YA and JF, look no further.

Jenny had Liza at 15. Fifteen years later, Liza had Mosey. These two generations of single mothers are hell bent on preventing Mosey from getting pregnant at 15.

As an intricate mystery unfolds, the reader learns it’s the past--not the future--they should have been shielding her from.

The audio is read by the author. Her folksy, singsong performance is superb, and it cements the readers love for these characters.

Unabridged, 10 CD

LBN - 736163 / ISBN - 9781611139921
February 2013

The Fire Chronicle: Book Two Of The Books Of Beginning

by John Stephens

This is the second book in The Books of Beginning trilogy. Our protagonists are siblings, Kate, Michael, and Emma. In Book One, they learned they are destined to be stewards of three magical compendiums. Kate took possession of the first, The Emerald Atlas, and learned to travel through time.

This content is nicely reviewed as The Fire Chronicle opens. The children follow a dangerous route to the second compendium, involving riddles and puzzles through South America, Antarctica, a secret valley, and a volcano.

There are elves, knights, castles, a dragon and more! The action is fantastic but comprehensive characterization drives this series. Jim Dale narrates these audio books. He did the Harry Potter audios and his performance is outstanding.

Unabridged, 10 CD

LBN - 816678 / ISBN - 9780307879806

Safekeeping

by Karen Hesse

Radley is volunteering in Haiti when U.S. politics suddenly change. Over a short period of time, a right-wing party is elected, the president is assassinated, and protests are crushed by martial law.

Radley flies home and her parents don’t meet her plane as arranged. To travel by bus, citizens now need passes that take weeks to process, so Radley walks home violating new curfew laws. After several days of walking, she finds her home abandoned. Eventually, Radley seeks refuge in Canada.

The gradual erosion of citizens’ rights and freedoms in this book is chilling in its authenticity. It’s pleasing that the author portrays Canada as a bastion of political sanity. The author makes clear her message that democracy is fragile and precious.

Unabridged, 4 CD

LBN - 832290 / ISBN - 9781427227201
January 2013

Skinny

by Donna C. Cooner

Ever is fifteen years old and weighs over 300 pounds. She can't fit in desks, she can't walk down aisles, she's continuing to gain weight, and feels humiliated. Eventually, Ever decides to have gastric bypass surgery and loses over 100 pounds.

Ever also struggles with a critical inner voice, Skinny, who constantly whispers toxic doubts. Anyone who has ever felt inadequate can relate to Ever’s struggle with Skinny.

The book uses numerous Cinderella references to make the subject matter more accessible, including a fairy godmother, a step-mother, step-sisters, a prince, and a ball. Even the play Cinderella is part of the plot.

The audio includes an extremely interesting interview with the author, who also had surgery to lose weight.

Unabridged, 6 CD

LBN - 849511 / ISBN - 9780545466288
December 2012

Every Day

by David Levithan

David Levithan has created a truly extraordinary way to explore being human. His teenage protagonist (named A) wakes up in a different human body each day. On one of those days, A falls in love with a girl named Rhiannon.

This brilliant narrative device engages extraordinary empathy as A experiences being male, female, transgender, gay, straight, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, rich, poor, a bully, an outsider, popular, a geek, athletic, obese, intelligent, ignorant, gorgeous, ugly, bereaved, depressed, addicted, hung over, heart broken, in love, and in therapy.

We also learn about empathy as Rhiannon struggles to recognize and love A in all of these contexts. Listen to this poignant and enriching novel, because the audio performance is outstanding.

Unabridged, 7 CD

LBN - 839127 / ISBN - 9780449015209

The Spindlers

by Lauren Oliver

A little girl discovers her brother is missing and realizes that she is the only one who can find him and save him. In the course of her adventure, her courage, loyalties, beliefs, and faith are all tested to their limits.

There are talking rats, flying fairy creatures, riddles, monsters, an evil queen, and much more. It is a wonderful, fast-paced, scary fantasy novel that families will enjoy listening to together.

Unabridged, 4 CD

LBN - 874254 / ISBN - 9780449015001
November 2012

The Diviners

by Libba Bray

In 1920s New York City, a wide network of engaging and vibrant characters (all with emerging paranormal abilities) experience different connections to a series of murders.

The murder victims’ bodies form a pattern of bizarre occult ritual which all of the characters contribute to solving. Some of these characters include pickpockets, small town debutantes, socialist activists, jazz musicians, chorus girls, poets, occult experts, and tin-pan alley song writers.

This first book of a four-part YA saga establishes loose links between the characters that promise to strengthen. It is a riveting start and an excellent audio choice. The narrator’s skillful performance maintains gripping suspense and many voices with vivid accuracy.

Here's a link to hear an audio sample, along with a link to Libba Bray talking about the book.

Unabridged, 15 CD

LBN - 863290 / ISBN - 9780449808733

Lies Beneath

by Anne Greenwood Brown

Calder White and his sisters are merpeople who survive by consuming human emotion. This sinister process kills the human, or it always has before.

When Calder falls in love with a young woman who freely shares her love, contentment, and pleasure with him, it strengthens him more than murdering a human would, and she emerges from the process unscathed. Their happiness together has one huge obstacle. Calder promised his sisters he’d seduce and betray her.

I started listening to this mermaid story set in Lake Superior, because of the setting, but I kept listening for a variety of reasons. This book has a lot to say about family secrets and myth-making. The romance is also sweet and engaging.

Here is a link to an audio sample, as well as a link where you can view the book trailer.

Unabridged, 7 CD

LBN - 826639 / ISBN - 9780449010327
October 2012

Hex Hall

by Rachel Hawkins

Sophie discovers she’s a witch on her twelfth birthday. It might have been nice if her mother had mentioned it!  Sophie’s untrained magic eventually causes her exile to a reform school for witches, fairies, and shapeshifters. There she finally learns about who and what she is, but something isn’t right. Sophie isn’t like the other students.

The mysteries in this plot build beautifully. The author crafts a detailed, convincing secret paranormal society. As with many such stories, the paranormal plot is a technique for talking about racism and homophobia. Here, footage of witch and shapeshifter lynchings achieve this quite effectively.

Though this series will publish its third book in January, this first book only became available in audio in June.

Unabridged, 6 CD

LBN - 858558 / ISBN - 9781452638652

Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings

by Helene Boudreau

Isn’t the prodigious proliferation of paranormal series and subsequent creatures getting out of hand? Anyway, I felt I should read a mermaid book. Happily, I loved it.

The main character gets her first period and unexpectedly turns into a mermaid, on the same day. Her father’s well-intentioned involvement with both events is hilarious.

Becoming a mermaid reveals that her mother, believed to have drowned, is in fact alive but imprisoned in a nearby bay. A fast-paced plot ensues.

This is a Canadian audio juvenile book, which is great because there aren’t many available.

Unabridged, 4 CD

LBN - 715590 / ISBN - 9781611200041
September 2012

Minnie McClary Speaks Her Mind

by Valerie Hobbs

Minnie has just moved to a new school. Her father lost his job as a lawyer, her uncle is unemployed, and Minnie doesn’t understand any of the causes. A committed teacher gradually helps Minnie to identify and address these and other problems in her life.

Through writing, Minnie learns about herself. Reading excellent books shows Minnie how other people solved problems. Eventually, Minnie gains the courage to act herself.

This empowering book is a fine champion of reading, excellent teachers, and the potential of all kids. Complex issues are discussed in ways kids can grasp: racism, ignorance, censorship, war, even Islam. Families listening to this book together could explore many interesting discussions.

Unabridged, 5 CD

LBN - 826703 / ISBN - 9780449010235

Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian

by Eoin Colfer

This is the final Artemis Fowl book, and it was fantastic! The plot was as fast-paced and ever, seamlessly tying up many ongoing subplots.

The depiction of the evil Opal Koboi in this final book is priceless. Also, one of Artemis’s four-year-old brothers is possessed by an ancient warrior spirit. As the brilliant child battles for control of his body--spitting out scathing one-liners before being subdued--the verbal performance transitioning between the two characters is exquisite.

The audio versions of these books are hilarious, and I highly recommend them. The Irish accents make the text sing.

Unabridged, 6 CD

LBN - 826688 / ISBN - 9780307991218

August 2012

Summer At Forsaken Lake

by Michael D. Beil

This is a wonderful book about childhood summers: lakes, cottages, making friends, riding bikes, sailing, playing baseball, time to play. It’s also about reading instead of watching TV. It’s about reading a book with your sister and how a favourite book makes you want to read others like it, how books affect how you think.

It’s about the stewardship of good librarians. More books on sailing? Try these. You liked this book? What did you like? We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea by Arthur Ransome in particular is featured.

I can’t think of a better book for a family to listen to together.

Unabridged, 7 CD

LBN - 826661 / ISBN - 9780449010235

The Book Of Blood And Shadow

by Robin Wasserman

Our protagonist, Nora, translates the Latin letters of a young woman from long ago and feels a connection to her.  Mysteries and danger surround the young woman and as Nora continues translating mysteries and danger enter her world.

The connection becomes real as the shadowy religious societies from the letters enter Nora’s world, and she travels to Prague and the heart of the mysteries, to try to escape.

This book conveys the magic of reading and how the written word preserves worlds and ideas and love and people. It also features a real life manuscript that has never been successfully translated.

Perfect for teen readers who loved Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly.

Unabridged, 11 CD

LBN - 823379 / ISBN - 9780307968043

July 2012

Proust And The Squid: The Story And Science Of The Reading Brain

by Maryanne Wolf

Back in May, I reviewed The Digital Divide. Maryanne Wolf contributed an intriguing chapter, so I listened to this 2007 book.

In a nutshell, her book explains reading: the history of written language and human brain development, how each individual child’s brain learns to read, what actually happens in the brain as we read, etc.That is, Sumerian cuneiform, Egyptian hieroglyphs, Socrates, dyslexia, Marcel Proust, George Elliot, and much, much, more.

I read very few “grown-up” books. Reading a book by a cognitive neurologist brought me to my intellectual knees, but, it was fascinating and wonderfully exciting. If it weren’t available in audio, I never would have read it. Perhaps some of your patrons are the same.

Unabridged, 7 CD

LBN - 617761 / ISBN - 9781598877366

The Extraordinary Education Of Nicholas Benedict

by Trenton Lee Stewart

The author of The Mysterious Benedict Society presents a segment of the childhood of Nicholas Benedict.

Young Nicholas is brilliant. In the course of the plot, he solves mysteries that adult characters were unable to. The suspense of Nicholas’s investigations will keep kids turning pages.The mysteries revolve around books and their value. Nicholas also loves learning, and reads books greedily.

These plot points may bolster positive perceptions about reading in young listeners. Maybe listening to this title will encourage them to spend more time reading this summer.

Unabridged, 11 CD

LBN - 825341 / ISBN - 9780307968326

June 2012

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The Unseen Guest

by Maryrose Wood

This is the third book in The Incorrigible Children of Aston Place series. Miss Penelope Lumley, governess to three children--largely raised by wolves--has extended the children’s lessons to synonyms.  They pretend not to understand and complain that “cinnamons” are dull, uninteresting, boring and tedious.

Later they complain the night is scary, spooky, frightening and creepy. After a loud mysterious noise they shush each other to be quiet, silent, mute, and unobtrusive. The accent of the English narrator makes these lines of dialogue sparkle.

Readers will probably remember from this book, forever after, what synonyms are. Children and their parents will find much to laugh at in the author’s fast-paced plot.

Unabridged, 6 CD

LBN - 851236 / ISBN - 9780307968487

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Chomp

by Carl Hiassen

This book is an excellent comedic premise executed to perfection. A “reality TV” show features an alleged wilderness expert. Each episode he has adventures in exotic, dangerous, settings, surviving by his wits and usually eating something disgusting.

The star of the show does actually eat gross stuff, but the rest is staged. He’s an arrogant, spoiled, unintelligent high paid actor. For his Florida episode, the show hires an animal wrangler who really is a wilderness expert.

When the actor demands the encounters with wild creatures seem real, the wrangler obliges. He ensures the actor is bitten by turtles, snakes and bats. Getting half drowned by an alligator was an accident but it’s nevertheless really funny.

Unabridged, 5 CD

LBN - 825320 / ISBN - 9780307916426

May 2012

The Digital Divide: Writings For And Against Facebook, YouTube, Texting, And The Age Of Social Networking

by Mark Bauerlein

This is a fascinating book with strong YA crossover potential. A wide range of clever people (neurologists, linguistic specialists, internet aficionados) talk about aspects of our digital world. Is the internet inhibiting reading? What has texting done to solitude? Are today’s teens’ brains different from our own?

Each chapter begins by describing its author’s credentials, writings, website, or blog, so it’s easy to read more. Imagine starting a book club with this book. Imagine adults and teenagers debating the pros and cons of texting or Facebook. Just try to reach a consensus on follow-up books!

The narrator does a great job with this challenging material. Listening to it will keep teenagers (and adults) more engaged than print.

Unabridged, 8 CD

LBN - 772000 / ISBN - 9781452632988

April 2012
Marissa Meyer Cinder

Cinder

by Marissa Meyer

In this richly imagined YA sci-fi fairy tale, Cinder, a mechanic, has an electronic leg, hand and visual functions. In her world these non-human attributes give her the legal status of cyborg--property rather than citizen.

When the prince of her realm brings a broken android to her market booth, she hides her non-human status from him.  This small rebellion sets many things in motion including their unlikely romance.

Parallels to the Cinderella story are playful but the plot expands far beyond it into many intriguing subplots and a diverse cast of deftly drawn characters. This will be a trilogy. I can’t wait to see what happens.

Unabridged, 8 CD

LBN - 772289 / ISBN - 9781427215000

Bossypants

by Tina Fey

This book--in audio or print--makes an excellent YA crossover. Tina Fey herself reads the audio edition and does an excellent job.

I listened to part of this book while out walking. People must have been puzzled why someone walking alone would suddenly explode into laughter. Fey’s description of how her mother “handled” her mother-to-daughter puberty talk, for example, is one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard.

More than that, some of the rules Fey shares about improv comedy are really enlightened collaborative ideas. If co-workers used them, they would have a very positive, productive workplace.

Unabridged, 5 CD

LBN - 711107 / ISBN - 9781609419691

March 2012

Legend

by Marie Lu

This is the first book in a YA Dystopian Science Fiction series, an excellent book to recommend to fans of The Hunger Games.

Our protagonists are both 17: he is an elusive legendary criminal, she is a legendary student in the military. He is the prime suspect in her brother's murder, and she is set the task of capturing the criminal, which she does, in record time. In questioning him, she soon realizes she's made a terrible mistake, and together they plan a perfect escape.

The narrative alternates between the two protagonists, with male and female narrators for each character. This is a fantastic, romantic, suspenseful book, and teens will clamour for the sequel.

Unabridged, 7 CD

LBN - 760740 / ISBN - 9781611760088

Dragon's Oath

by P.C. Cast

This is the first title in The House of Night series of Novellas. Each novella fills in the adolescent backstory for one of the adult characters in The House of Night Series.

Dragon is the sword master, and the plot of his novella works well to explain his behaviour so far in the series, as well as his choices when action resumes with Zoey's story in the next book: Destined.

I am a huge fan of this series and I think these novellas will augment the series beautifully.

Unabridged, 3 CD

LBN - 775190 / ISBN - 9781427213907

February 2012

Inheritance

by Christopher Paolini

I really expected certain “happily-ever-afters” to occur in this conclusion to The Inheritance Cycle, but I was certainly in for a shock. The young author succeeded in several surprises, but he also laid the groundwork for future books, I think.

Wildly successful series like this one don’t need us to recommend them, but did you order the audio version? If the Harry Potter books fall into the category of family listening, then this series does too. The same narrator does both and he is adept at distinguishing a large cast of characters. The audio of Inheritance also includes an interview with the author talking about his work.

Unabridged, 24 CD

LBN - 724685 / ISBN - 9780739372487

All These Things I've Done

by Gabrielle Zevin

Anya Balanchine is a 16-year-old forensic science enthusiast who is street smart and trying to do the right thing. Her parents were recently murdered, so she now looks after her younger sister, her older brother, and her grandmother, who is terminal, bedridden, and Anya’s legal guardian.

Anya tries to stay out of the family business, but also keep an eye on it too. It’s 2083, chocolate is illegal, and her family’s chocolate multinational makes her one of the most powerful people in worldwide organized crime.

This is the first book in a series, and perhaps even a new genre. It is as unique and engaging as the Artemis Fowl series. Readers will love it.

Unabridged, 8 CD

LBN - 766915 / ISBN - 9781427213587

January 2012

The Summer I Learned To Fly

by Dana Reinhardt

One summer, our the protagonist, Drew, becomes aware of a world outside her safe, stable home. In fact, she realizes that nothing in the world is guaranteed safe or stable at all least of all the things she’d come to trust were: her home, her relationship with her mother, her friends, her mother’s business, etc.Her pet rat and its tiny cage home make an excellent metaphor for this theme.

I loved this book because so many of Drew’s experiences and feelings brought to mind memories from my own childhood. Numerous details make this a very effective coming-of-age story.

Unabridged, 4 CD

LBN - 714696 / ISBN - 9780307915771

Theodore Boone: The Abduction

by John Grisham

This is the second book in the Theodore Boone series, an excellent choice for families to listen to together. When Theodore’s best friend, April, disappears, Theodore uses what he knows about her parents to try and find her.

The mystery plot is excellent, and Grisham also discusses the legal questions around children caught in families with unhappy marriages. It is refreshing and realistic that his plot doesn’t produce a perfect, magical resolution.

Unabridged, 4 CD

LBN - 727302 / ISBN - 9780142429419

December 2011

The Penderwicks At Point Mouette

by Jeanne Birdsall

In this third, sweet book about the Penderwick sisters, the second oldest, named Sky, takes centre stage. She, Jane, baby sister Batty, Aunt Claire, and Sky’s friend Jeffrey are to vacation by the ocean while Mr. Penderwick and Iantha honeymoon, and Rosalind has a vacation with her friend. (Mr. Penderwick thinks Rosalind needs a break from her responsibilities as oldest sister.)

Wonderful summer adventures ensue. The way the girls think and plan (and fail to plan) remind me of my own childhood summers. Days full of beaches, bike rides, outside games, reading books, none of it particularly structured or ambitious.

Unabridged, 6 CD

LBN - 714682 / ISBN - 9780307915337

Forever

by Maggie Stiefvater

Do you ever wonder about Sam’s music? This audio version includes music written and performed by the author. The narrator also sings some of Sam’s songs, but before and after the narrative there are beautiful instrumentals. The music really adds depth.

I savoured this third and final book in The Wolves of Mercy Falls series. Against a fast-paced plot, full of danger and serious choices, sweet, unique, strong characters develop convincingly into maturity as do two romances. Growing up isn’t easy and this author portrays it well.

Unabridged, 10 CD

LBN - 713952 / ISBN - 9780545315289

November 2011
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Moon Over Manifest

by Clare Vanderpool

You’re probably familiar with this Juvenile Historical Novel as it won the 2011 Newbery Medal; but, do you have it on CD? It is one of the best audio books I’ve listened to.

Three excellent narrators switch off so seamlessly I actually didn’t notice there were three voices until partway through the story. The narrators are Cassandra Campbell, Kirby Heyborne, and Jenna Lamia, who read The Adoration of Jenna Fox.

The historical content would make for excellent family listening and discussion. Two time frames--World War I and the Depression--are presented from a child’s point of view with a mystery woven in. It makes the history very accessible.

Unabridged, 8 CD

LBN - 746814 / ISBN - 9780307968142

The Autobiography Of Mrs. Tom Thumb

by Melanie Benjamin

(ADULT HISTORICAL FICTION) I was looking for something different to read, and this book was perfect.

Mercy Lavinia Warren Stratton (Bump) was two-foot eight-inches tall and lived from 1841 to 1919. Her family expected her to stay safe at home, but instead she travelled to New York, met P.T. Barnum, married Charles Stratton (aka Tom Thumb) and toured the world. She met Queen Victoria, each U.S. President in office in her lifetime, and other dignitaries.

The author talks about primary sources she had and how they directed her narrative. Apparently Miss Warren intended to write an autobiography but never did.

Unabridged, 12 CD

LBN - 715858 / ISBN - 9780307713483

October 2011

The Fox Inheritance

by Mary E. Pearson

A teen book for boys! This is the sequel to The Adoration of Jenna Fox (see my review: April 2009). Jenna and her friends--Locke and Kara--were in a car crash.  Jenna’s father, a brilliant surgeon, used experimental technology to upload her “brain scan” into a synthetic body. He took scans of Locke and Kara’s brains as well but bodies could not be made. Everyone thought they died, but their minds spent 200 years together in a black void.

Told from Locke’s perspective, The Fox Inheritance opens as he and Kara escape that hellish blackness and re-enter the world.  A provocative premise filled with action-packed adventure.

Unabridged, 8 CD

LBN - 766910 / ISBN - 9781427213792

September 2011

Please Ignore Vera Dietz

by A.S. King

Vera has embraced her dad’s M.O. her whole life: stay below the radar. Vera’s mother was once a stripper and she’s petrified that people will find out. Then her best friend Charlie ditches her for a party crowd and worse, he tells them about her mother. The whole school knows and it’s awful...but then it’s not.

Vera realizes that her dad’s M.O. is flawed. Instead of being Vera the invisible she becomes Vera the invincible and takes on the party crowd. Several characters in this audio are portrayed by different voices. The result is more convincing than the print version would be. This is a Printz Honor Book.

Unabridged, 7 CD

LBN - 726821 / ISBN - 9780307942104

The Warlock

by Michael Scott

Spoiler alert! Book Five of The Secrets of the Immortal Nicolas Flamel ends with a fantastic cliff hanger.  Josh and Sophie arrive 1000 years in the past. When they look around and say, “Mom? Dad?” the reply is, “Here we are usually called Isis and Osiris.” I had wondered about the absent archaeologist parents!

Joan of Arc and Scatach return, along with Shakespeare, Billy the Kid, Machiavelli, and many other historical and mythical figures. This audio is read by Paul Boehmer who does a fantastic job on the many accents.

Unabridged, 9 CD

LBN - 714686 / ISBN - 9780307915498

August 2011

Last Sacrifice

by Richelle Mead

This is the last novel in the young adult paranormal series The Vampire Academy...and what a finish! Richelle Mead does an excellent job with a fast-paced plot and clever, convincing mysteries, all of which, together with the romances, tie-up nicely in happy endings for everyone.

The audio performance gives fantastic immediacy to the combat scenes as well as the dream sequences. I loved this series and was glad to see adventures in this world will continue with the spin off series Bloodlines, publishing this month.  

Unabridged, 11 CD

LBN - 691911 / ISBN - 9780142428177

July 2011

The Knife Of Never Letting Go

by Patrick Ness

Welcome to the YA Chaos Walking series, which action/adventure fans will absoutely love. Our protagonist, Todd, is running for his life as his uncle’s farm is blowing up behind him. He has a vague map but no idea why he’s running. He lives on a planet where people can hear men’s thoughts (“the noise”), but no one can hear women’s thoughts. Then, Todd meets his first girl, and her silence is unsettling. He and the girl are running for the entire book! The audio production of “the noise” is fantastic.

Unabridged, 10 CD

LBN - 726077 / ISBN - 9781441852670

June 2011

Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer

by John Grisham

Theodore is the thirteen-year-old son of two lawyers. He’s well known in his small town as a clever student who also knows a lot about the law. When a murder occurs, Theodore negotiates a field trip to the trial so he won’t have to skip school to attend. Children who trust him become central witnesses, and he learns they’re in danger. Suddenly the trial is much more than an intellectual puzzle. Fantastic family listening - the second book will be out in June.

Unabridged, 4 CD

LBN - 679665 / ISBN - 9780142428696

Zorgamazoo

by Robert Paul Weston

"Are you a believer in fanciful things? In pirates and dragons and creatures and kings? Then sit yourself down in a comfortable seat, with maybe some cocoa and something to eat.” Or maybe settle into a family road trip. You will be familiar with this book because it won the Silver Birch Fiction Award. Did you know it’s available on CD? The entire book rhymes the way these first lines do. It is a singular experience to listen to it. Besides the fact that it’s a funny, action-packed adventure, it’s perfect for Family Listening.

Unabridged, 3 CD

LBN - 691953 / ISBN - 9780142428184
May 2011

Hero

by Mike Lupica

Billy’s father performed impossible missions all over the world: rescuing people, ending dictatorships. Billy thought he was some kind of secret-agent, but he doesn’t learn until after his dad died that he’d actually been a superhero. He finds that out when he turns fourteen-years-old and starts getting super powers himself. He needs his heightened senses, super speed, and strange intuitions to figure out who the “good guys” are. Who can he trust? There are lots of interesting sub-plots, action and well drawn characters. Book two in July.

Unabridged, 5 CD

LBN - 691906 / ISBN - 9781455803637

Num8ers

by Rachel Ward

I recommend the audio of this YA SF title over the print edition, mainly because of the distinctive accents that the are present. The two main characters, Jem and Spider, are underprivileged youth from central London. The demarcation in accents between the kids and the foster parents and social workers in the story is realistic and supports the theme that Jem and Spider feel different and alienated. I’ll review the sequel, The Chaos, next month.

Unabridged, 8 CD

LBN - 670775 / ISBN - 9781423396291
April 2011

Blink & Caution

by Tim Wynne-Jones

This Canadian YA story works well as an audio. The first part is basically the interior monologue of one character, Blink. He’s a street kid, sneaking into a hotel to steal food off of trays left outside rooms. He witnesses four men behaving strangely, and steals a phone. Later he reads in the paper that one of the men was kidnapped. What Blink saw contradicts the kidnapping story. He listens to voicemail on the phone and suddenly he’s not an aimless street kid. He’s pursuing a mystery. Caution’s story is every bit as compelling. The scenes in Toronto and Kingston will be fun for readers to recognize – I’ve been there!

Unabridged, 9 CD

LBN - 721497 / ISBN - 9781455803637
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The Dark Deeps

by Arthur G. Slade

Canadian author Arthur Slade presents Book 2 of the fantastic Hunchback Assignments series. The narrator has a very distinctive voice for the remarkable character Modo, a teenage spy whose face and body can perfectly imitate any other human being. Hearing the narrator perform Modo  enriches the reader’s perception of this quirky adventure. Modo and Octavia take on a Clockwork Guild invisible spy.  There’s an underwater society with fantastic devices including an advanced submarine. There are sea battles, explosions, rescues, mysteries to solve and more. You can also read a review of book 3 in the Staff Picks section. 

Unabridged, 7 CD

LBN - 694979 / ISBN - 9780739380260
March 2011

Virals

by Kathy Reichs

This is the YA debut of Kathy Reichs, bestselling author of the Bones novels and TV show. Not surprisingly, Virals has a forensic mystery. Tory Brennan and her friends are geeks with a fun, almost Mission Impossible, level of erudition in their areas of interest. They rescue a dog from a research facility, but the dog has a disease, and they contract it. The disease alters their DNA giving them telepathic connections, superhuman strength, and sensory abilities. Isn’t that intriguing? The audio works really well with the telepathic connections. The things they say in each other’s heads have a unique audio quality.

Unabridged, 6 CD

LBN - 691952 / ISBN - 9780142428160

Scumble

by Ingrid Law

In this sequel to the Newbery Honor-winning Savvy, a new character, Ledge, gets his magical talent (savvy) during a family road trip to his uncle’s farm. Ledge’s savvy disassembles things. He touches a motorcycle and it falls completely apart, down to nuts and bolts. Scumbling is learning to control one’s savvy. Eventually, Ledge works out that his savvy can also build things. Against this action, a mean demolition company is buying up businesses around Ledge’s uncle’s farm and smashing them down. Ledge helps solve why. Ledge’s savvy provides an interesting vehicle for exploring selfhood themes.    

Unabridged, 6 CD

LBN - 691951 / ISBN - 9780142428146
February 2011

Monster High

by Lisi Harrison

This is the first book in a YA paranormal series that promises to be very successful. It reads like the author was killing herself laughing as more and more hilarious ideas occurred to her. The premise is that a group of monsters live in a quiet community, supporting each other but keeping their identities hidden from human neighbours. There’s a Jekyll family, the Steins (daughter Frankie), a family of Medusas, some werewolves, vampires, etc. Racism themes blend seamlessly with the fast-paced mystery but the well drawn, quirky characters are what define this book.  I can’t Wait for book Two. 

Unabridged, 7 CD

LBN - 683973 / ISBN - 9781607886358
January 2011

Shade

by Jeri Smith-Ready

After the most important musical performance of his life, Logan died. His girlfriend Aura knows he died, because she can see ghosts, and there he is. In Aura's world, kids can see ghosts, but adults can't. As the story progresses this paranormal aspect of Aura’s world offers an intriguing mystery and links her to a new boy, Zachary, while testing her bond with Logan. Book One in a series, the characters, romances, and relationships are compelling but the paranormal mysteries are extraordinary and riveting. The audio presentation skillfully heightens the suspense.  

Unabridged, 8 CD

LBN - 668984 / ISBN - 9781416994060
December 2010

Unwind

by Neal Shusterman

This is a book for fans of The Hunger Games. In a future world, parents can “unwind” their delinquent teenagers. (“Unwinding” means harvesting all parts of the teen’s body for organ transplants.) The fast-paced narrative shifts between the voices of three escaping teens who find their way to a paramilitary illegal organization that hides “unwinds.” Unwinding links into the Pro-life vs. Pro-choice debate, an interesting context to talk about this issue in the midst of an irresistible page-turner. The narrative includes an “unwinding” from the perspective of the teen being medically dismembered while conscious. Hearing this in audio makes it feel very real.  

Unabridged, 9 CD

LBN - 654609 / ISBN - 9781423373070

The Daughters

by Joanna Philbin

Although the author's subject matter is obviously autobiographical (she is the daughter of TV star Regis Philbin), she uses it to good advantage. The Daughters is an engaging mystery, featuring great characters and a cliff-hanger ending. In this edition, a few characters have distinctive accents that contribute to their characterization. The audio presentation of these is flawless and adds to the “rich and famous” exclusive tone of the setting. This is a good one to listen to.

Unabridged, 6 CD

LBN - 676110 / ISBN - 9781607882992
November 2010

Linger

by Maggie Stiefvater

This is the sequel to Shiver, but having not read that book, I can assure you this novel is a credible stand-alone. The romance between the two main characters emphasizes not their physical intimacy, but their emotional bond. Their tentative plans for a future together make the sudden werewolf affliction of one of them all the more heartbreaking. The audio features music by the author which really adds to the story. Four characters share the narrative, and four actors perform these parts beautifully. Different voices can be jarring in audio novels.  Here, the love the characters share comes through.   

Unabridged, 8 CD

LBN - 670868 / ISBN - 9780545207072

The Books Of Elsewhere: The Shadows

by Jacqueline West

A girl moves into a house where she learns how to slip into the paintings on the walls. Our heroine gathers magical objects and develops powers to solve mysteries. The first book in the series merits comparison to the Harry Potter books, but includes a younger reader. Content about the parents will amuse adults, making this a good choice for family listening. And did I mention there are also talking cats!?

Unabridged, 4 CD

LBN - 673358 / ISBN - 9780143145714
October 2010

Spirit Bound

by Richelle Mead

Rose is Lissa’s guardian but they have always been friends, and now they're a team. In this fifth book in the Vampire Academy series, Lissa figures out how to use her magic to convert a Stragoi vampire back into a mortal. Her new ability has enormous political ramifications for her, and logistical implications for the war with the Stragoi. This fast-paced plot explores interesting ideas about friendship, love and moral ambiguity. The audio presentation ranges from quiet conversations to fight scenes with effortless ease. 

Unabridged, 7 CD

LBN - 652154 / ISBN - 9780143145271

The Red Pyramid

by Rick Riordan

Carter and Sadie are siblings who record their story in alternating voices, sometimes interrupting each other or fighting over the microphone. This narrative method is funny, gives their story immediacy, and is perfect for audio. Their parents have died, and Carter and Sadie learn that they are descended from two lines of pharaohs, making them powerful magic users. There are lots of Egyptian gods and goddesses, one of whom used to be Sadie’s cat, and becomes their chaperone. At the end they begin to travel the world searching for other children with magical potential they’ll need to save the world.  Book 1 of The King Chronicles.

Unabridged, 12 CD

LBN - 664933 / ISBN - 9781441850959
September 2010

Will Grayson, Will Grayson

by John Green and David Levithan

This hilarious book has a complicated plot packed with interesting, well-developed characters and themes. All of them revolve around the unforgettable Tiny Cooper, an enormous gay teen with an equally enormous personality. He is completely self-centred, but charmingly frank about it. The story is told by a straight Will Grayson (Tiny’s best friend), and a gay Will Grayson (Tiny’s newest boyfriend). The audio version has different actors for these two characters and it works very well. Another great feature of the audio is Tiny’s autobiographical musical. It’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever listened to. 

Unabridged, 7 CD

LBN - 681491
August 2010

Dark Life

by Kat Falls

This novel combines the author’s son’s interests: oceans, the Wild West and the X-Men! She turns the sea into a frontier, as farming the ocean floor becomes a remedy to overpopulation and global warming. The children who grow up underwater develop “Dark Gifts” or adaptations, such as echo location, camouflaging skin, or abilities to intuit changes in water, air pressure and temperature, etc. The author evokes living underwater in exquisite detail. Beyond these considerable achievements, she adds a relentless, fast-paced plot, excellent characterization and several unpredictable mysteries. I hope this will be a continuing series.  

Unabridged, 6 CD

LBN - 670867

Only The Good Spy Young

by Ally Carter

In this fourth book in the Gallagher Girls series,  convincing character development of the four central girls continues. They are take-charge, smart girls and portrayed believably as good friends. The narrator in this audio version does an excellent job of differentiating the characters’ voices, as the banter between them is often rapid and hilarious. Their spy skills and education are an interesting element, and the plot and suspense build well until the cliff-hanger ending. An evil organization is trying to kidnap Cammie, with each attempt endangering everyone around her. Cammie figures she’ll use her spy skills to disappear, leaving everyone behind, where they’ll be safer. I thought that was a clever twist. I look forward to reading more, and I’m sure your patrons’ reactions will be similar. 

Unabridged, 6 CD

LBN - 685728
April 2010

The Hunchback Assignments

by Arthur J. Slade

This book fits into the Steam Punk genre. The award-winning Canadian author Arthur Slade starts a brilliant new series in an alternate Victorian world where a government spy agency employs extraordinarily talented orphans. Our protagonist is a misshapen boy, who can shape-shift his body to resemble anyone. He’s a perfect spy. Into a fast-paced mystery plot the author deftly weaves a compelling twist on the Cyrano de Bergerac love story. Read by Jayne Entwistle whose pleasing delivery will remind the listeners of Julie Andrews. 

Unabridged, 5 CD

LBN - 631511

The Evolution Of Calpurnia Tate

by Jacqueline Kelly

It’s 1899 and there’s a drought. Calpurnia notices that there are hardly any of the usually abundant green grasshoppers around and that there are lots of new yellow grasshoppers. Even though she’s rarely brave enough to talk to her cranky grandfather, she asks him about them. He tells her to let him know when she’s figured them out. Eventually she realizes that the yellow colour evolved because of the drought. He’s delighted with her discovery, and invites her to join him in further scientific investigations.

Unabridged, 8 CD

LBN - 656578
March 2010

Virus Of The Mind

by Richard Brodie

The author of Getting Past OK and the original author of Microsoft Word, builds on the work of Richard Dawkins and the science of memes. Brodie believes the impact of this new science could be as great as the emergence of atomic physics. A mix of science, ethics and current events. Read by the author. (Ron Stadnik)

Unabridged, 4 CD

LBN - 653451

Fallen

by Lauren Kate

This is the first book in a series. All her life, Luce has been able to see shadowy creatures that no one else can see. Eventually, to avoid mental health treatment, she pretends that she’s cured, and that the “shadows” are gone. But soon she starts to see other things as well, to feel certainties that are inexplicable. Against all reason, she pursues the truth. What she learns is fantastically romantic, frightening, and involves angels. This book is read by Justine Eyre, whose sensuous voice conveys the plot’s romance and sexiness as well as Luce’s uncertainty and vulnerability.

Unabridged, 8 CD

LBN - 649758

The Devil's Kiss

by Sarwat Chadda

She spent her childhood relentlessly training to join the Knights Templar. Now London needs her.

An interesting paranormal book that reads like Tamora Pierce for grown-ups.

Unabridged, 7 CD

LBN - 643201

Captivate

by Carrie Jones

In this sequel to Need. Zara's sweetheart--the werewolf Nick--is mortally wounded and taken from her. She can only rescue him if she becomes a pixie herself...she and her friends have been battling pixies all along. The author uses their paranormal traits to delve into ideas of racism, selfhood, and the irrevocable nature of some adolescent decisions. The audio performance admirably evokes the characters’ qualities--Issy is hyper and loyal, Zara is strong but uncertain, and Nick is self-assured.

Unabridged, 7 CD

LBN - 665873
December 2009

Submarie Outlaw

by Philip Roy

This unabridged Canadian audio production is only $14.95, and was nominated for the 2010 Red Maple Award. In the story, a Newfoundland boy, Alfred, wants to be an explorer instead of a fisherman, so he and his friend build a submarine. When the boys set off on their trip, news of a mystery submarine spreads and even makes the news. Alfred and his friend have unpredictable and interesting experiences, making for a truly original book.

Unabridged, 1 CD

LBN - 619516
November 2009
book cover

Solace Of The Road

by Siobhan Dowd

Fourteen-year-old Holly runs away from her foster parents in London to find her mother, who went to Ireland years before. But Holly’s memories are unclear, and as her journey progresses, she has several flashbacks, finally understanding the truth. Similes and images associated with Holly’s journey and selfhood work well to support her epiphany. Her quirky, laugh-out-loud humour adds levity. For example, she makes frequent references to Jane Eyre, disparaging Jane as a pathetic heroine during her flight from Mr. Rochester. The vocal performance captures Holly’s vulnerability, naivety, and courage.

Unabridged, 6 CDs

LBN - 631515
September 2009

Catching Fire

by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire is book two in a series that will revitalize YA Science Fiction the way Harry Potter breathed life into Fantasy and the Twilight Saga sparked interest in Paranormal. Twilight readers particularly will enjoy this series as the heroine is emotionally wrung dry by heartbreaking obstacles to her romantic feelings. She is sulky and prickly, but strong and passionate. She struggles to make moral decisions in the face of impossible situations. The relentless plot gave me sleepless nights.

Unabridged, 9 CDs

LBN - 637475

The Secrets Of Immortal Nicholas Flamel #3: The Sorceress

by Michael Scott

This YA paranormal series is my favourite. I love these characters, especially Joan of Arc. Aside from the super-powerful, magic apprentice twins Josh and Sophie, all of the characters are either from history or myth. In this third book of six, we meet William Shakespeare and Billy the Kid--both immortal--and Joan and Scatty get stranded millions of years in the past. Equally, Nicholas and Perenelle’s immortality will end in a week or less if they can’t retrieve a stolen spell book.

Unabridged, 8 CDs

LBN - 611658
August 2009

Silvertongue

by Charlie Fletcher

The audio for this last book of  The Stoneheart Trilogy is one of the best I’ve listened to for this age group (8-12 year olds). Jim Dale does a wonderful job as he did with the Harry Potter audio books. If you aren’t familiar with The Stoneheart Trilogy, George has talent manipulating stone while Edie experiences moments from history when she touches rock. These affinities have trapped them together in a London with no other people…but all the statues are alive and at war. We meet characters like Boudicca and her daughters, Shackleton, and many others. Among many interesting ideas, the story conveys what about civilization is worth fighting for, and why the sacrifice soldiers make should be cherished.

Unabridged, 9 CDs

LBN - 611976

Going Bovine

by Libba Bray

This book is among the funniest I’ve ever read, a YA book for guys that will make them laugh. I even laughed out loud reading the author’s acknowledgements. At its core, this novel urges the reader to relish living. The book is life-affirming in subtle, beautiful ways, and as an added bonus, it will make the reader want to read (or reread) Don Quixote.

Unabridged, 11 CDs

LBN - 632691
July 2009

The London Eye Mystery

by Siobhan Dowd

Salim visits his cousins, Ted and Kat in London, England. After a very short visit, he vanishes. Ted “whose brain runs on its own unique operating system” has Asperger's Syndrome. He and Kat try to figure out how and why Salim vanished. Ted’s brain is uniquely qualified to solve this engaging mystery, and he shows the reader how as the plot moves forward. Dialogue works particularly well in this audio format; the cousins are from different parts of England and they tease each other about their accents. For North Americans, a lot of this banter will be much clearer in audio than it would be in print. How Ted and Kat relate to each other and how Salim’s continued disappearance, escalates stress between the characters is presented very well in this audio performance as well.

Unabridged, 5 CDs

LBN - 608875
April 2009

The Adoration of Jenna Fox

by Mary E. Pearson

In Jenna Fox's future world, medical science can repair or replace vurtually any part of the human body, and legislation has been introduced to regulate this. Jenna wakes from a coma, gradually regaining her memory and the realization that she is not the same.  She's 2 inches shorter, and can remember her own baptism.  She was in a horrific car crash and expected to die.

Her father is a reconstructive surgeon and she realizes that he is responsible for saving her life, but now she has a high-tech, prosthetic body with barely ten percent of her orginal self. The ethical questions raised by her situation are staggering. It is a remarkable, thought-provoking read.

In an interview included with the audio version, the author says that ideas for this novel began when her teen daughter had cancer.  She wondered what she would be prepared to do to save her. (Her daughter recovered fully)

For more Young Adult audio, use code 'AY' in the Advanced Search area of our website.

For Young Adult Non-fiction titles on ethics and science, use code 'YN' to find the series Dilemmas in Modern Science.

Unabridged, 4 CDs

LBN - 567642